Now that the year is coming to a close it is always nice to be able to formulate some semblance of a plan of attack for the next calendar year. Rarely do things work out in such a fashion but having a basis is useful as it will allow you a point to pivot from while always keeping in mind your core goals. I will try to follow up the generalities with some measure of a S.M.A.R.T goals to more easily gauge success.
New Rental – Have One New Rental Unit by December 31 2017
2016 was a failure for me in this category. My partners and I acquired our first multi family in the Hudson County area in Q2 2015, and we were thinking to do the same in 2016. We were a little more delayed this year and then the market decided to go through the roof from Q2 2016 on, with the properties in our realm being 20-30% more costly on a per unit basis. This would place the required rents at nearer to NYC proper levels than they will currently support. So the property market should see some corrections soon. I think it likely that early next year everyone will still be struggling to fill vacancies that will cover the mortgage and more of a buyer’s market will come to the fore. If not, I am always reminding myself not to force any of the numbers. Find a better asset class for the right time.
Expand Digital Media / Make 1,000$ online by December 31 2017
This was a repeat goal from last year and likely will continue to be one. I attended university and took classes on marketing that taught me nothing about the internet. It took me years to realize that Digital Marketing was really the field that I had always been looking for. This past year I took my first steps down this road and got some formal education through my companies Federal Education Reimbursement Program. Not only did I get free education that allowed me to put my head on straight in regards to this entire field, it also looks like I’m an engaged employee utilizing our benefits programs! I expect to double up the focus on all my online based efforts in the new year. The more I spend time with it all the more like second nature it becomes. Two years ago I couldn’t remotely imagine making my own web page. Now I can put one up in five minutes. Not that that matters in and of itself, but progress is progress!
Explore New Education Opportunities / Get One New Certification by December 31 2017
Continuing education is always a huge return in my mind. It not only allows you to learn something new – it helps you in a myriad of other ways. For someone like me it allows a socializing and networking window when I am normally not all that good at networking. Being in crowds bothers me, so having a reason to be there always helps. I have a few thoughts in mind, namely either starting Real Estate licensing to some form or another or to expand my Digital Marketing skillset with the adwords certifications. I still need to pin down which is more pertinent, likely the Google ones. We shall see.
Assess Q4 Spending / Spend 20% less by December 31 2017
This is the first quarter that I have ever had the stomach to sit down and manually track my transactions. For years my cousin has been trying to get me into YNAB in order to make financial monthly planning a habit. I tried it and hated it. Too much of it reminded me of balance sheet problems from Accounting 101 which I failed hilariously. Instead I forced myself to make a life spreadsheet on Google Docs and to update it daily with my transactions. I have been doing this for a few months and it sure is disgusting. I hate putting line items down, manually doing it truly shows you how frivolously we spend money. I have not actually run the numbers on my spending categories, and my color blindness does not make charts Essendon the eyes. At the end of the year I will run monthly numbers so that I can be in good order for Jan 1 2017, hopefully I will be able to post some sort of rough budget for now and going for shortly.
Vacation Plans / Visit 3 new Countries by December 31 2017
The last vacation I went on was a two week trip to Europe this past summer visiting family. I am not the biggest fan of traveling due to my distaste for leaving my cats for an extended period of time. I would prefer to get to the point where I would be able to live in a few different cities for an extended stay rather than quick bursts of tourism. Part of my desire for financial independence comes from the desire to be able to slow travel throughout Europe in the somewhat near future. So while I don’t currently have much planned out for 2017 I do expect some 3 day weekend trips around the state’s and maybe an island hop to the Caribbean at some point.
Purge / Have 25% less stuff by December 31 2017
If there is one thing that makes almost every single one of my to do lists no matter the month or year, it is the purge. I like to live in a state of perpetual purge because no matter what I do, I continue to acquire material goods that are unnecessary and wasteful. Having excess things in my life almost physically hurts me. It certainly mentally hurts as I feel encumbered by detritus from my past, and when you are living in NYC in a 280 square foot apartment, that’s a big no go. So mainly it is the closet that gets continuously purged as family members buy me clothing as gifts. This upcoming year though I expect to purge for the first time ever, the infamous sock drawer. Millions of mismatches eating my precious time, I plan to wipe it clear and get a bunch of extremely visible and match-able socks.
New Phone and Carrier by December 31 2017
I don’t want to but it’s about that time. I still use my 5 year old IPhone 4s and it works like a charm. I am very much of the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality and my phone is still trucking along without even the slightest signs of wear. I think there is something to be said for the smaller screen being much more resistant to cracking but I would like to upgrade eventually. My current plan with Verizon is running me anywhere from 75$-95$ a month, and I am pretty limited in my usage. It is likely my phone is so old that the WiFi range has degraded some, by updating I will likely have lower data usage unless I find some more killer uses that I don’t currently have access to. Updating to a larger model could make me more likely to use my phone more instead of a tablet for daily on the go writing sessions, but I am also concerned that I will break anything as soon as I get it just due to karma! The 4s randomly drops from 40% battery to 0% whenever it can find the most inopportune time to do so, so while this is not a huge priority I expect to test out one of the newer low cost carriers like Cricket or Metro PCS in the near future.
Physical / Be able to hit Body Multiple Goals by December 31 2017
I have for years been pretty consistent with my physical fitness regimen, sticking to 3 days a week at minimum of heavy lifting and the odd cardio day. As I head towards my 30’s I would like to ramp up my health focus bit by bit in easy manageable chunks.
For a bit more than a year I enjoyed Muay Thai classes as a group experience and learned a lot about self defense and my physical limits. I chose Muay Thai for its upright style of fighting and lack of grappling, as I do not want to spend hours sweating on another male. Also helped that it was two blocks away! I was injured during one class and generally do not like being on someone’s else’s time frame, so this year I am looking for a viable solo alternative.
Trading Account / Be up 10% by December 31 2017
My go to investment has always been VTSAX, what I call the Admiral. I was always pretty bad at math growing up, so I appreciate the ease and automatic diversification that comes with just routines it into an index fund for relatively safe keeping. The Admiral is always trying his best to steer downwards and upwards, fractional portions of hundreds of businesses all vying for profitability. I have taken some deviations in the past when I was feeling particularly flush with cash such as buying penny stocks with friends or TSLA because I thought I had at least some sort of moral obligation to do so. I learned my lesson and have mainly stuck to my old Admiral instead.
So in 2017 of course I want to deviate again. I plan to take a reasonable amount of my uninterested cash and plug it into a Robin Hood account and attempt some minor swing trading. I don’t expect to gain nor lose too much as I’m risk averse at heart, but I think it will be a useful learning tool for my financial future. It will force me to delve into the analytics and lingo of the industry in a way that I have not before, and education is always a minimum 100% return on investment in my mind.
Clear Student Loan by December 31 2017
I am at the end of a decent student loan journey. After graduating college I was surprised by unexpected debt due to my parents timely divorce. Prior to that occurrence I had been debt free and planning to travel the world and volunteer. Instead I buckled down and worked. At the end of 2016 I have roughly $4,000 remaining on them, and while I have enough cash on hand to blow them away, my automated double-size payment has made this somewhat painless for the last few years, so I will give him the glory and be happily surprised midway through next year. Another account that I will get to cut from my life, after this experience I do not expect to put myself into debt for education ever again.
First Roth Backdoor / Complete by Tax Day
How many times do you think you read about Mega Backdoor Roth’s this year? If you run in the same circles as me the answer is “way too much.” I am not as crazy about tax advantaged accounts as many others seem to be, and I do not want to overweight myself and lock too much of my money away. Sure you can get it back with some finagling but I want my money accessible. I plan to do this for two reasons. One mainly as a learning experience just to see how it all works out and the second being a love of simplicity. Executing the back door would leave me with one less account as I will have to roll my traditional IRA into my existing Roth for some tax basis stuff. I would love to have less accounts purely for my purge mentality!
More VR Time
This is more of a silly goal but I want to spend more time immersed in virtual reality. I was one of the psychos that bought an Oculus Ready PC from their partnership with Best Buy for a lovely $2,500. In hindsight, not one of my better decisions for FIRE purposes, but with a savings rate of 50%+ I think I need to live it up a bit at times. I love being in the virtual worlds, but a number of factors come into play to the point that I haven’t put on the headset in months. I love showing everyone virtual reality for their first time, it truly is enjoyable to change people’s perceptions and blow their minds. However I work so much, and combined with the fact that I mainly just want to take my contacts out at the end of the day, wearing VR goggles and straining my corneas further has proven to be a bad move. I bought the rig telling myself I wanted to be an early adopter to suss out business possibilities, and I need to continue viewing it in that light.
I live in a poor person’s penthouse – a fifth floor walk up in an old building in a quiet neighborhood. The rent is exceptionally low for the location, my girlfriend and I split a one bedroom apartment for 1,000$ a month. This has been a godsend allowing us to drastically amp up our savings as well as our debt pay down. My concern is that I never want to put much money into a rental as it is not mine, and I never trust timeframe estimates as it is a month to month lease so things can change at any time. However we do hope to stay for at least another year or too, unless a housing market correction drastically alters pricing in the area for purchasing. I do not need the stress of a mortgage over my head right now, so I think it is best to just do some small improvements that can dramatically increase quality of life while we are there. Shelves, organizing, hangers, etc. I will be visiting Lifehacker.com a lot to plan out small accessible DIY projects.
It is always useful to plan ahead so that you give yourself something to aim at.This past year was a huge success in my book, and I want 2017 to be even better. I could put down Net Worth goals, but I would like to expand upon those in a post sometime soon. I try not to be too hard on myself in that realm, as savings is generally all I am thinking about on the broader scale. I just started tracking my Net Worth and collated all my accounts, so I should be able to start getting more accurate growth and return numbers this upcoming year.